From the Editor-in-Chief: Bangladesh’s ties with Pakistan

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, October 6th, 2016
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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s comments on Bangladesh’s ties with Pakistan are a sign of the pragmatism that should underline the nation’s foreign policy. In recent times, the manner in which the Pakistani authorities have unabashedly interfered in Bangladesh’s internal affairs has met with a swift and firm response from the Bangladesh government. It has been made clear that Dhaka will tolerate no interference by any quarter, least of all Islamabad, in its internal affairs. The message has certainly gone out loud and clear to everyone.


Alongside the question of how Pakistan has been looking at what is clearly our own domestic matter, there have been demands from certain circles in Bangladesh that diplomatic relations with Pakistan be snapped in retaliation. It is not a well-considered demand, for the very important reason that in the times we inhabit, breaking off diplomatic links is a throwback to another era. As the record shows, nothing good has ever resulted from a break in ties between nations. What has happened instead is a rise in hostility, with such nations turning away from each other and thereby not giving themselves and their peoples a chance to build a proper and productive relationship with each other. It is against such a background of diplomatic realism vis-a-vis geopolitics that Sheikh Hasina’s view that the war crimes trials should be no reason for Bangladesh to go for a break in ties with Pakistan assumes significance. Her response to the questions placed before her on the issue at her interaction with the media last Sunday did not get bogged down in emotion or gratuitous sentiment. It was pragmatism at work.


There is another aspect to the Prime Minister’s reflections on relations with Pakistan. Human emotions are only natural. Bengali sentiments in terms of what Pakistan did in 1971 in occupied Bangladesh will always be there. Therefore one might be willing to forgive, but it will not do to forget. We have not forgiven Pakistan, for Pakistan is yet to acknowledge the genocide its soldiers committed in 1971. But the point the Prime Minister made on Sunday should not be missed either: it really does not matter now what a defeated country that is Pakistan says about the affairs of the victorious nation that Bangladesh is. The reality is we defeated Pakistan’s forces in war. That glory remains sacrosanct.


But there is certainly a need for us, as the Prime Minister took pains to point out on Sunday, to zero in on those who in Bangladesh made possible a rehabilitation of the old notorious collaborators of Pakistan and brought them into the government of a country they once violently tried to prevent from being born. We believe such people have a whole lot of questions to answer to public satisfaction.

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